Tips for Car Battery Care and Life Expectancy

How to get the most out of your car’s battery, and keep it running for a long time.
Written by Brady Klopfer
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Your car might be a large, high-tech, expensive piece of driving machinery, but it still has something in common with basic appliances like your TV remote — it needs a battery to run. Most cars use gasoline to power their engines, but they still have a battery that is integral to the process. In a standard internal combustion engine, the battery is responsible for providing the electrical power necessary to start the vehicle and get the engine running. And when you use electrical elements of your car, like the stereo or the lights? Those all are powered by the battery.
But a car battery is different from the batteries you find in a remote. It’s designed to last a lot longer than the batteries you buy in the store. Still, car battery life is still finite and they do die eventually, usually after about three to five years. But there are ways to get the most out of your car battery, and make it last a long as possible. Increasing your battery's lifespan will help you save money, since
new batteries
can cost anywhere between $50 to $200 — and that's not even counting the charge of labor for installation! Read on to find out how to increase the life expectancy of your car batteries.

Turn off All Electric Accessories When Not Driving

Most people have experienced that sinking feeling when you leave the headlights on overnight, and then your car won’t turn on the next day. That happens because headlights - as well as the stereo and the climate controls - drain the battery. If you use them when the engine isn’t running, they’ll run the battery dry (the battery relies on power from the engine to recharge, which is why it’s fine to use your electric accessories when driving).
When this happens, you can recharge the battery with jumper cables and everything will be just fine. But it’s not good for the battery. The more time the battery spends not fully charged, the shorter the lifespan becomes. Draining a battery doesn’t just create a short-term headache, it creates a less reliable battery long term.

Clean the Terminals

One of the quickest ways to lose battery life is by having dirty battery terminals. This usually happens because of corrosion from the battery, but it can also occur naturally from dirt and grime. If you keep the battery terminals clean, the battery will last longer. To do so, simply disconnect the terminals, and scrub them clean with a paste made of baking soda and water (a toothbrush works great for the scrubbing). Then clean with a small amount of water, wait for the terminals to dry, and reconnect them.

Keep It Well Fastened

Batteries can occasionally become a little bit loose. If they’re loose, they’ll jostle around under the hood, and that’s an easy way for them to lose some of their life. Regularly check your battery to make sure it’s well fastened, and not jiggling around. If you frequently drive on bumpy roads, you might want to consider purchasing a battery harness, which will help keep your battery in place.

Test It

One of the best things you can do for your health is get regular checkups, and your battery is no different. Test it regularly, and you’ll be able to diagnose some health issues before they get worse, which can increase the life expectancy of the battery.
The easiest way to test your battery is to ask a mechanic to test it whenever you’re having maintenance performed or the oil changed. However, you can also buy the equipment to test your battery at home.

Avoid Void Harsh Temperatures When Possible

Batteries don’t like extreme temperatures, whether they’re hot or cold. This means cold weather could really reduce your car battery lifespan. The less your battery is exposed to harsh temperatures, the longer it will last. No, we’re not advocating moving to a different part of the world just to preserve your car’s battery, but if you have a garage, try to be diligent about parking your car in it anytime it’s really hot or really cold. It can add years to your battery life.
Getting the most out of your car battery isn’t a huge task. Just follow these simple steps, and your battery will last you a good long while — and you'll be saved that sinking feeling of
getting in your car
, only discover you have a dead battery and a costly
trip to the mechanic
in front of you.
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